(Tetum) “The Hohrae 1, 2 & 3 sweet potato varieties are so tasty, whether they’re steamed or fried,” says Agusto Martins (48), chief of the Hakiak Buras sweet potato group in Liquica, “and the leaves are yummy because they taste just like kang kong.”
Agusto is chief of a 10-member group (5 women, 5 men) in Manumetalau hamlet, Manumeta village, Bazartete sub-district, Liquisa district that grows the three improved sweet potato varieties in a 60 x 25 m2 production plot.
The group grow the varieties to sell cuttings to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) as a way to make income for them and their families Agusto explains.
Hohrae varieties produce double the yield in half the time (3-4 months), compared to local sweet potatoes (7-8 months)
“In 2013-14 we sold 60,000 cuttings to MAF at a price of 1c/cutting, so our group made $600. We were very happy.”
“We save the profits from our cutting sales as a group, but also lend it to members so they can buy necessities for their families,” he said.
The cuttings the Ministry or others, such as NGOs, buy are distributed to local farming families so they can also benefit from growing the improved varieties of sweet potato.
All three Hohrae varieties produce double the yield in half the time (3-4 months), compared to local sweet potatoes (7-8 months). Once the varieties are planted they can be harvested 3-4 times, whereas most crops are planted once and harvested once.
The orange fleshed Hohrae 3 variety is highly nutritious and has high levels of vitamin A, which helps prevents eyesight problems in children.
Hakiak Buras first planted the Hohrae varieties in February 2012 when they received 6,000 cuttings from their suco extension officer.
“In our first year we didn’t make much money. But now we’re growing more and more sweet potato, so are making money by selling it to MAF,” he said.
The group also sells the young leaves and tubers in their local village markets, as well as using them for home consumption.
“We regularly eat the young leaves because they’re so tasty and we can continually harvest them from our plots.”
Sweet potato leaves can be eaten as a green vegetable and are known to be a good source of iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.
Over 30 farming families in Manumeta village now grow the improved Hohrae varieties, with some selling their tubers in Bazartete market.
“We don’t always get good results from the local varieties so we’re very happy with the improved varieties from MAF-SoL because they yield well,” Agusto said.
There are already over 60 similar sweet production centres around Timor-Leste, which are being established to provide farming families with secure access to quality cuttings of the improved varieties.